Advice on Tests

Gary Rubinstein gives some advice on tests, specifically the first one:

  • Collect homework so you know what students understand
  • Don’t make it too long. Err on the side of making the test too short so as to allow students to check their work.
  • Make the test easy enough so that every student can do well. While I’m all for high expectations, I think he has a point here. Students who are used to failing will have their hopes dashed once again if they don’t do well on the first assessment or test. On the other hand, if they do well, their entire outlook on school (or at least your class) can change. I’ve seen it happen.

I’m not a fan of using the words “easy” and “hard” to refer to tests. If students have been engaged and learning, the test should be what my old English professor called an opportunity to show off your knowledge. A “hard” test to me is one that asks questions you weren’t expecting and tests your knowledge of trivial details. I think that teachers should have the expectation that all students can do well on every test (and by well I mean pass at the least) if they work hard and understand the objectives of each lesson.

Basically, tests are just assessing what the students SHOULD know, led by standards and objectives, as opposed to testing information that students don’t need to know to excel in the subject. Putting the latter on tests is what I call “hard.” For example, testing students on specific dates and places is way less important than testing them on their knowledge of the importance of the Federalist Papers or their ability to use standard writing conventions. Not scary. Just practical. And the test shouldn’t be “hard” if students have worked diligently to understand and master the parts that were difficult at the beginning. If students are aware of all this, I think that test-taking will be much less scary. If students have slacked off and know they don’t understand what’s on the homework, then yes, the test will be hard, but it doesn’t have to be.

So many quotation marks. Apologies.